Berdahl meets the press at new residence hall

By Karen Holtermann, Public Affairs

28 August 2002 | With good news about student housing and some perspectives on the academic year about to unfold, Chancellor Berdahl met with reporters on Aug. 22 for his annual back-to-school briefing.

“This is the first year since I’ve been here that we haven’t had a waiting list for housing,” Berdahl said, anticipating the topic that has been hottest at the start of fall semester since he came to campus in 1997. “I think we have turned a corner on alleviating the pressure students feel to find housing.”

The briefing was held at the new College Durant Apartments, the campus’s just-opened housing for 60 graduate students and 60 upper-division undergraduates. The chancellor credited the new housing facility, the first constructed since 1992, plus the availability of more affordable housing as the economy declines, with easing the housing crunch for students.

Berdahl acknowledged the difficult state budget situation and its likely impact on staff salaries, a focus of the three-day strike by the clerical workers’ union this week.

“I do understand the frustration and concerns of many UC employees,” he said. “We live in a high-cost-of-living area, and many staff have salaries that make it difficult for them to live and raise families here.”

He said the university had planned to request funding for an additional 1 to 1.5-percent staff salary increase for this fiscal year, but explained that the plan went south when the state budget deficit mushroomed, now to an estimated $23.5 billion. “We’re in a very tight budget situation that makes it very difficult to meet the hopes of some of the staff,” he said.

On the academic front this fall, the chancellor said Berkeley’s 32,500 students will have a spectrum of intriguing courses to choose from, “from the first totally online course on campus [offered in earth and planetary sciences] to a course on making books by hand, the good old-fashioned way.” As always, he said, distinguished Berkeley faculty will be in the classroom, this fall including former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass as well as geologist Walter Alvarez — known for his theory that an asteroid led to the demise of the dinosaurs — who will teach a freshman seminar.

Commenting that “we are a university that engages in the study of the world,” Chancellor Berdahl noted his commitment to open discussion, respectful debate, and the importance of learning about the points of view and values of others.

After the briefing, some student residents at College Durant opened their rooms to tours by the chancellor, campus officials, and reporters. The apartments, arranged as two to six single bedrooms around a central living room, kitchen, and bathrooms, were already taking on a lived-in look, with students adding personal touches to the brand-new space.

Most of the graduate students living in the complex are recipients of competitive multiyear university fellowships. This year, the campus was able to offer the housing to recruit top graduate students, a common practice at many campuses but impossible until now at Berkeley because of the housing shortage that has plagued the campus, and the Bay Area, in recent years.

In two years’ time, all of the complex will be devoted to housing first-year graduate students. By 2005, four new university residence halls and an additional apartment-style complex are scheduled for completion on the Southside of campus, adding 1,100 new beds in all.


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Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
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